Gig ticker     Terry and Gerry + Dementors + Bob Blackstock + Prodigal Scum at Hare & Hounds B'ham May 31st  T&G interview and live track...     Dan Whitehouse with BJ Cole at Glee Club B'ham June 5th  2014 Dan Whitehouse and Chris Tye interview...     Sunshine Frisbee Laserbeam at Bulls Head B'ham June 13th...     Police Bastard at Actress and Bishop B'ham June 19th  2013 Police Bastard interview...     

Sunday, 24 May 2015

I used to go to Barbarellas

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People and bands and music and sticky carpet make places 


I've been working up a few posts for Time Out Brum of late. Some of them are on local music history, including this one on lost venues. It's had a big reaction, and I'm now looking at more stories that have come my way. Thank you! And keep them coming. 

We've lost a lot of venues over the years. It's sad to seem them go, of course; hardest on the people who made a particular place what it was. There was a great book published last year about JBs in Dudley. There's memories aplenty scattered around on websites. But there really isn't enough about one place I spent lots of time either DJing or sticking to the carpet: the primo 70s and 80s Rock venue in Birmingham... Barbarellas.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Don't you point that thing at me #7 : Sam Frank Wood

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Catch that moment... sometimes under exacting circumstances


St Vincent at Birmingham Institute  
There's a pic on facebook about how crazy musicians are to put their five grand instruments into a car worth maybe five hundred, and drive a hundred miles for a fifty quid gig. They're not alone - decent cameras don't come cheap, and yet we often see two or three snappers at gigs, all with seriously costly kit, looking to capture something worthwhile - which they might not even get paid for. At least I can bash this stuff out on a three hundred quid laptop, or do my radio stuff on kit which hardly cost me anything. But musos and snappers? Mostly, they fork out a lot. But they clearly love it all, the same way all the people in a local scene do.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Open Mic nights - a most variable feast. You should go.

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The historic Fiddle and Bone and the very new Dark Horse: two ways to do Open Mic. Why not try both?

It's around eight o'clock on a sunny Tuesday evening on Sheepcote Street in Birmingham centre. Things are warming up as Richard Heath sets up the PA for his new Open Mic night at the Fiddle and Bone

This is a Very Good Thing. Music is back at the Fiddle and Bone. The place was set up first and foremost as a music venue. Now it's back after over a decade, hosting live music the way it used to. We've regained a city centre music venue. 

Its closure followed an unpleasant episode of noise complaints from newly arrived flat-dwellers. Noise complaints still dog local venues; efforts to get the city to grasp this nettle have met with silence and evasion. The Fiddle and Bone's case caused particular rancour, and dark rumours still circulate.But that was then...

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Rumbles in the radio jungle

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Tricky times for pop radio


If you look at what's playing at radio, you'll mostly find bleakly repetitive fare. 

Further down this post, I've got an analysis of five stations (three West Midlands analogue, two national digital), with their current most-played artists, taken from the Compare My Radio site. Everyone is playing youth diva Taylor Swift. Four of the five are playing Sam Smith. 

It's a typical pattern; has been for years. Most commercial stations go for safe, reliable and familiar. It's the McDonalds way: familiarity and repetition. Punters know what to expect; the brand is crystal-clear. 

But the web came along and overturned the applecart. And now, news that came out last week could have huge implications for the industry. 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A conversation with Swami: Simon & Diamond and S-Endz

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A brand new band that's been going since 1999

Two months back, I compiled a local YouTube chart. It's a labour of love, and I can miss things. Happily, I'm usually swiftly corrected. S-Endz duly pointed out that his band, Swami, had scored very decent views for their new video. So I fixed things, bouncing the bottom entry (sorry, lads) to present a revised 50. And started thinking about Swami. 

There's lots of Asian bands in the West Midlands. But normally they aim squarely at Asian markets; Swami are different. Malkit Singh may sell millions worldwide to Bhangra fans, but Swami aren't cut from that cloth, not remotely. For a start, they're cross-cultural, in the grand Birmingham tradition. The website is slick and impressive. 

A swift introduction by Sharnita Athwal at Shaanti, and I'm sitting with Simon and Diamond Duggal, joined later by S-Endz. Swami has been Simon and Diamond's project, since 1999.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The game is changing: Goodnight Lenin

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Goodnight Lenin want feedback on their new songs. See them in the bar afterwards. Oh, and there's three, count 'em, three festivals to talk about. With the Monkees?

The challenge for all performers is to know when it's going well, and why. That's why I so admire people who make great music. It's not just the uncanny talent. It's the pressure to perform, to deliver. Not only that: you have to work out how it's going: you have to manage it all. 

This blog doesn't just celebrate moments of inspiration and warmth, but also the stagecradt that goes with it. To have the balls to take your visions and dreams out to an audience, to lay it out in public, is one thing. That's where it really starts. That's when the game changes.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Destroyers lay fresh foundations

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Eight years of constant change, and the band's hungrier than ever.

I'm sitting in the snug in legendary Moseley music boozer The Prince of Wales, with Leighton Hargreaves, Max Gittings and Aaron Diaz, three long-term members of the Destroyers. It's appropriate: if anything is, it's the band's home base. It's where members come to play at the open sessions; it's where they put on their legendary Christmas/New Year shows.

Now, after what seems like an uncomfortably long time, there's good news to report: the band are issuing an EP, on local label Stoney Lane. There may be more to follow, possibly building up to an album. And there's a tour planned out.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Horace Panter. Special.

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He still loves it, all of it. 


Horace Panter is great company: courteous and affable. He is hugely knowledgeable about music and musicians, both local and further afield. He plays in three and a bit bands: blues band Blues 2 Go, and straight-up ska outfit Uptown Ska Collective. And he's also working with Champion Doug Veitch, collaborating with Martin Bell, once of The Wonder Stuff. 

But the big band is, of course, The Specials, who started in 1977, reformed in 2008, and are now bigger than ever. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Beyond the band #3: Pete Williams

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Nicely connected after a lifetime of rock and roll ups, downs and setbacks, Pete Williams is punching out fabulous songs.


It didn't start with his bass work with Dexy's Midnight Runners in the 80s, or even through the revived Dexy's in the Noughties and again in 2012. But often that's all that you read about him. Pete played in both bands, and people always want to talk about the juicy stuff.

There's a lot more. Williams has just come out with his second, very successfully crowd-funded, album, Roughnecks and Roustabouts, and he's doing shows, on the road in his own name. The past may be lurid and colourful, although much of it is not of his own making. But it's what's come out of that past now that matters.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Catching the buzz: Rhino and The Ranters

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That critical moment when it all starts to work...

Assuming there's merit and talent in a band, and that the band then backs it up with graft and a bit of a marketing push, there's usually a point when word gets out. Suddenly, big numbers show up for gigs. Suddenly, the name gets bandied around. Suddenly, there are faces turning up to check out the new boys on the block. Suddenly, people you tend to listen to are mentioning them.

Last week, at Dylan Gibbons' Blues Night at the Spotted Dog, you could see the signs. There were faces aplenty, come to take a look at Rhino and The Ranters. And it was a cracking gig.